About Fisheries

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Migrant Lobster Fishermen, Castletownbere, Co. Cork, ca. 1913 (Image Credit: Spillane Collection, SPL15, National Library of Ireland).

What is a fishery?

The term ‘fishery’ is frequently used, but what does it mean? The Oxford Dictionary of Environment and Conservation provides us with a current definition of a fishery: ‘a place where fish are caught and processed and sold’.

The precise meaning of ‘fishery’, particularly when reading historical sources, can vary and is context-dependent. It can refer to:

  • the place where fish are caught, the fishing-ground
  • the activity of catching fish from sea or rivers
  • a fishing establishment, i.e. all those who are engaged in fishing in a particular location

In 1812 Edward Wakefield, the English philanthropist and statistician, suggested four classifications of Irish fisheries: (i) inland fisheries, (ii) white fisheries (cod, ling etc.), (iii) the herring fishery and (iv) the shell fishery, including lobsters, oysters etc. (Vol II, p.83).


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